Guest opinion: Let's build an effective east-west bike corridor | November 4, 2015 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Viewpoint - November 4, 2015

Guest opinion: Let's build an effective east-west bike corridor

by Dana Hendrickson

A resident and an avid cyclist, I support making significant improvements to Menlo Park's existing bike network. I also believe more residents need to provide their input well before our city approves them because — whether they drive, walk or bike — all residents will feel impacts from any big changes, not just bike enthusiasts like me. Now is an important time for residents to express their needs, concerns and preferences. Let me explain why.

The Menlo Park Bicycle Commission has recently proposed the idea of adding bike lanes on Oak Grove Avenue. While I strongly favor a better east-west bike connection, an Oak Grove solution is suboptimal.

Ravenswood and Menlo avenues are more convenient locations for an east-west bike corridor, as these streets are centrally located and close to popular destinations such as downtown, the Civic Center, various facilities at Burgess Park, the train station, and neighborhood schools.

Oak Grove Avenue, on the other hand, introduces unnecessary and inconvenient detours.

So why not make Menlo-Ravenswood a safe and comfortable bike corridor for most bicyclists? I realize many residents believe this is an impossible task. However, I have submitted a design proposal that illustrates how a combination of state-of-the-art bike facilities on Menlo and Ravenswood avenues and El Camino would offer bike riders an attractive, safe, convenient and comfortable way to travel between the east and west sides of our city. I encourage the City Council to hire a bike network consultant to thoroughly evaluate this option before it approves any major new bike network investments, and hope residents will broadly express their opinions. We need community input and expert advice to improve our decisions before it's too late.

My proposed solution combines protected two-way bike lanes on the south side of Menlo Avenue between Crane Street and El Camino Real and on Ravenswood between El Camino and Alma Street, a well-marked bike crossing on El Camino, and a separate bike path across the beautiful Civic Center property between Alma and Laurel streets. The path connects to the existing buffered bike lanes on Ravenswood between Laurel and Middlefield. All these bike facilities appear feasible with only small changes to short sections of sidewalks and vehicle lanes.

A copy of the proposal can be downloaded at bit.ly/mpbikecorridor on the Re-Imagine Menlo Park website. Please read it, carefully consider its merits and share your views with other residents and our City Council.

This east-west bike corridor design offers Menlo Park residents many important benefits.

• Ravenswood and Menlo avenues are already the most popular streets for bicyclists crossing El Camino. New bike facilities would not only provide current users a much safer and less stressful environment, they would also attract many more bicyclists, especially middle school and high school youth who now either use inconvenient bike detours or travel to school and local activities in vehicles rather than on bikes.

• Motorists would no longer need to stressfully share vehicle lanes with bicyclists on busy Menlo and Ravenswood avenues and University Drive.

•A bike path at the Civic Center would provide a peaceful and attractive way to avoid a busy section of Ravenswood.

• The use of protected two-way bike lanes would minimize the number of lost street parking places on Menlo Avenue and University Drive, and simplify the crossing of El Camino Real, especially on the east side where three vehicle turn lanes exist.

• The addition of protected two-way bike lanes on one side of University and short bike routes on Crane and Live Oak enable bicyclists to easily travel on continuous bike facilities from either Middle Avenue or Santa Cruz Avenue to destinations on the east side of El Camino.

• The Santa Cruz and Middle approaches to Menlo Avenue bypass both the busy Menlo/University intersection and the dangerous section of University between Santa Cruz and Menlo avenues.

• Finally, these improvements would send a strong signal that Menlo Park is committed to becoming a bike-friendly community and Caltrans would likely have only a small impact on the city's implementation plans, budget and schedules.

Also, it is not too late for residents to influence the field trial study of bike lanes on El Camino. Before conducting one the city needs to enlist bike network design expertise so residents better understand the benefits, costs and impacts, and the city needs to establish clear success criteria.

I am currently conducting an online survey at bit.ly/mpbikenetwork about both El Camino bike lanes and east-west bike connectivity and encourage you to participate and share your needs, concerns and preferences with our City Council, planning staff and volunteer commissions. It's time your voices and interests are heard.

Dana Hendrickson is a 30-year resident; he and his wife Lisa have raised their family in Menlo Park. He is an avid cyclist, active community volunteer, founder of the disabled veteran support nonprofit Rebuild Hope and the editor of Re-Imagine Menlo Park.

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